Will Callery, known to some as Billy C, made his mark on the music industry in the seventies, touring with the likes of Taj Majal, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, and Arlo Guthrie. His reputation as a formidable songwriter grew when Jerry Jeff Walker started performing and recording his material and Walker is credited with introducing Willie Nelson to the Callery ballad, “Hands on the Wheel.” Nelson cut the song in 1975 for his landmark album, Red Headed Stranger, which went double platinum and received a Grammy nod. More accolades for Callery followed, as “Hands on the Wheel” became a country classic when it was chosen for the Robert Redford and Jane Fonda movie, The Electric Horseman. He then scored a deal with Lone Star Records, was critically acclaimed by Rolling Stone, toured with Nelson, and in the midst of success he found himself hindered by an intense battle with substance abuse.
Today, Callery is writing better than ever. He’s healthy, sober, and has a groundbreaking new album. He’s renewed old friendships, and begun touring again. He credits his relationship with God for saving his music, and ultimately his life. A banner on Callery’s web page reads, “Things that were, things that are, things that are to come.” He details of all these ‘things’ on his new album, Rider Comin’ In.
He gets to the heart right off the bat with “The Great Divide,” the first single and lead track. (It was written for the Welcome Home Project honoring veterans returning home from the war and is part of a series of compilations titled Voices of a Grateful Nation). When he sings of “2000 quivering tongues of his band of brothers,” he depicts the tales of battle almost too well. A poignant and beautiful rendition of “Hands on the Wheel” appears in Callery’s first ever recorded version of the song that built his career. A duet with old friend, Jerry Jeff Walker, this song is a wonderful example of how his music is effortlessly timeless. Other stand out tracks exploring the tales of man include the soulful feeler “Dust,” and a piece directed at the secret societies of man, “Unseen Hands” (written by Danny Brooks).
The album is a combination of seemingly autobiographical songs and spiritual anthems. The originality and power in this body of work makes it a must have for any music lover. The production is crackling with live-like intensity, and even if you don’t agree with some of his sentiments, you’ll be bowled over by his intricate imagery. Powered by a voice that manages to convey vulnerability and authority simultaneously, his graveled growl rings with pain, truth, and ultimately redemption.
Also Recommended: The film Heartworn Highways, featuring Callery, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell.
~ Richard Diehn
Richard Diehn hails from the hills of Northern West Virginia where he grew up as a member of his family’s traveling band. He’s a writer, storyteller, and petrologist (Rockhound). He enjoys fishing, kite flying with his daughter, Gentleman Jack, and stalking his favorite country singer, George Jones.
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